Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Reading Through Haggai

Haggai ChartHaggai is the first of the three post-exilic prophets. Both Haggai and Zechariah are written to encourage the returned exiles to refocus on the rebuilding of the Jerusalem temple. Because of opposition and discouragement the work had stopped and the people began to pursue their own selfish interests rather than their relationship with God. God then raised up Haggai and Zechariah to encourage the people to rebuild the temple and pursue relationship with God.

As Richard Taylor says in the New American Commentary, Haggai

The overall purpose of the Book of Haggai is thus quite clear. Its four messages seek to stir the people of Judah to turn from their self-centered ways and to undertake, with God’s help, the restoration of the Jerusalem temple so that the Lord may once again uniquely manifest himself in this sacred place. If they will present themselves to him as a pure people, the Lord promises divine enablement for their task, unsurpassed glory for the new temple, and elevation of a Davidic heir to lead the people in triumph over their enemies. 59.

The message of Haggai assures us that If you make your relationship with God (and God’s work) your highest priority, God will come to you, encourage you, fill your work with glory, and give you blessing

Far too often the affluence of God’s people, rather than encouraging a self-imposed measure of personal sacrifice in order to advance the cause of God’s work in this world, leads instead to a hoarding of resources and to an ugly self-indulgence. The Book of Haggai vividly points out this inconsistency and calls for the people of God to move beyond such worldly ways of thinking. Richard A. Taylor, Haggai, 25.

The first sermon of Haggai (chapter 1) exhorts us to renew our commitment to God and to His work. To the Jews of Haggai’s day it meant, “Rebuild the Temple!” Today we are God’s temple. We rebuild the temple when we renew commitment to worship and serve God. We need to build our own relationship with God and then help others to build their relationships with God.

Persistent obedience to God’s calling for them would be accompanied by the enabling blessing of his presence for the accomplishment of things greater than they could imagine. They should forge ahead with their work, drawing strength from the Lord’s invigorating presence with them. Taylor, Haggai 2.3-5, 150.

The 2nd sermon urges us to renew our courage by focusing on God’s promises, not present circumstances. (2:1-9) The returned exiles saw themselves as an insignificant people under the thumb of the mighty Persian empire and the temple they had built as small and ugly compared to Solomon’s. But God’s presence was there and that is what was important. It is God’s presence in our lives that fills our insignificant works with power, meaning and glory. Courage comes from knowing God and gaining this Divine perspective.

The 3rd sermon (2.10-19) emphasizes that holy service must come from a clean heart and life. The problem is that we cannot make ourselves clean by anything we do. The only solution is the cleanness that comes from relationship with God. God offers forgiveness and blessing when we commit to relationship with Him. Our holiness never comes from a person or act. It can only be given by God.

The 4th sermon (2:20-23) emphasizes that because God is in control of the future, we can be confident. God in control of nature and the nations and will use them for His purposes. When we become “God’s servant” the power of God is behind us. It is about God, not about us.

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